Are they who or what?

The point was raised on LisaNotes recently that the Holy Spirit should be thought of as a person. That’s not at all how I think of the Holy Spirit. I thought I should try and sketch out how I do think of the members of the Trinity.

Please forgive the scrappy writing. I plan and polish and I never publish.

Please fire questions (as hard as you like) in the comments.

n.b.: Now that I’ve found this new world, I love to hear from other people about their faith. This feeling is so new and intimate to me it feels like such a privilege to hear. I hate it when people lay down the law, but it’s always a treat to hear about faith blossoming and it always enriches me.

** God

God is just what is.

Spinoza’s definition of God in his Ethics is what gave me permission to look into all this more intimately. Spinoza often wrote about “God or Nature” and was against anthropomorphic conceptions of God (the Jews sent him a particularly nasty excommunication for atheism, but from his writing he himself clearly believes in God and especially in Jesus).

[references available on demand]

So I don’t think of God as a person. I think any conception will be limiting and wrong. I think of God as everything that is, including things like time.

I do pray to God. I say, “Dear God, …”. I can’t really describe what happens then. A feeling comes over me, or I sink into a feeling. I might say some things, ask for help. Of course, it feels partly like being in someone’s company, or having a conversation, but only partly and I don’t know if (for me) that’s the most useful way to think or feel.

I have noticed that, as praying has become more of a habit, and as I fall into the practice of “talking to God”, that feeling of being in company has faded.

** Jesus

Jesus is the ideal or perfect human.

I mean this in the sense that Jesus is the “definition” of a human. We should follow Jesus and try to be like him, not in order to reap a reward or avoid a grisly fate in an afterlife, but just because that’s what we are really like.

** The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is a kind of “pull”, pulling people towards Jesus.

I think of it as a kind of gravtiational force.

Or it could be a kind of voice, encouraging, giving ideas (inspiring obviously). The voice is always there if we can only hear it.

Could even be a dog like Lassie in those films. “I think she wasn’t us to follow her!”

The point is that becoming like Jesus is in some way “natural” (like an apple will fall to the ground), but there are always other forces pulling in other directions.

** notes and queries

A couple of obvious questions I can think of right away:

So if Jesus is the only person, why don’t you pray to Him instead of to God?

Because I don’t think praying is really talking to someone. I think it’s deeper (and it feels deeper when it’s good). Delia Smith in “Journey to God” said that praying is something God does. I don’t understand what that means but I like the idea.

What about heaven and hell?

I haven’t thought about them much and they don’t seem important to me at the moment. Recently I thought of a heaven-type afterlife as “residing in God’s presence” and I’m happy with that for now. Hell I don’t know about yet.

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  1. I love this post. So many great things to consider. Have you ever read “The Shack”? It’s a novel that was popular in the US a few years ago. It was both applauded and condemned among different Christian groups because of how it depicted the Trinity. The author chose 3 different human forms (sort of) to embody God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, not because he thought that’s how they would look, but because they broke stereotypes of what the main character expected. I personally appreciated that because I don’t think any of us can nail down what God is like. I know he is light and love and good but also so much more than I can imagine.

    So I like hearing how you think of the Trinity in somewhat nebulous terms because even though I tend to picture them as “persons”, I know they’re much more. (It’s a construct I use in my mind as a starting point, as a way to picture Love, even though I realize it is too tiny. God is too big for my mind to grasp.)

    I agree: “I think any conception will be limiting and wrong.” I hope you’ll continue to share more of your thoughts. It’s delightful to be on this journey of stretching and growing in faith. There’s always more to come.

    • Thank you very much for your wonderful comment.

      I didn’t know about “The Shack”. I’ll look out for it.

  1. Passion | Luke 7:39

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